Archive for November, 2007

SOA and Architectural Constraints

November 11th, 2007  |  Published in enterprise, REST, services, SOA  |  Bookmark on

Don says he agrees with a lot of what James has to say about Stefan’s recaps of the QCon SOA Track, listed below:

I too agree with many of James’s insights. If you don’t regularly read his blog, you should subscribe immediately. I especially like this quote:

When I consider SOA and REST today, I do not see two competing visions, I see an evolution that has brought the industry back to a core set of fundamental design principles that we seemed to have lost sight of for a while.

How very true. However, I disagree with just one small point: his critique of the part of my talk where I said SOA has no constraints (as Mark Baker has been pointing out for years now).

James says that SOA has constraints, it’s just they’re just not well-documented. I know exactly what he’s saying, but I have to stick with what I said. The only official definition of SOA that I know of is the OASIS SOA Reference Model, which mentions several desirable properties for SOA systems, but it documents no constraints for inducing them AFAICS. Later in my talk, as Stefan’s notes indicate, I did say that I was willing to concede that the OASIS SOA RM promotes the client-server constraint. However, I was being really, really generous, since all the specification really does is hint that SOA systems should be distributed, and “distributed” has a lot more meanings than just “client-server.”

Since there are no official standard SOA constraints, the only constraints you get are the ones that each vendor or supplier of SOA platforms and systems decides to give you. Naturally, each different solution in this space will differ in those constraints.

As the quote from James above implies, pitting SOA and REST against each other doesn’t make a lot of sense. The reason I went to the trouble of pointing out in my talk that SOA is missing critical architectural requirements like constraints was to help illustrate the significant differences between SOA and REST. Fundamentally, as I also said in my talk, SOA isn’t really about architecture in the way that REST is. Rather, it’s about IT culture, best practices, breaking down the enterprise organizational and political barriers that needlessly increase IT costs, and following good fundamental software engineering principles like reuse, minimizing coupling, and maximizing cohesion.


November 10th, 2007  |  Published in conferences, REST, services, SOA, WS-*  |  Bookmark on

I returned home from QCon San Francisco last night. In the SOA track, it was most excellent to finally get to meet Patrick Logan, Stefan Tilkov, Pete Lacey, Jim Webber, Stu Charlton (thanks again for the Dew, Stu!), and Mike Herrick in person, as well as to get to meet up again with Sanjiva Weerawarana, Glen Daniels, and Dan Diephouse. All in all the SOA/REST track was highly informative, with solid presentations through the whole day. Pete’s was especially cool due to the demo he gave of the extreme flexibility and integrability of REST-oriented solutions. It was also reasonably fun, given how much the attendees got into it with their questions, and especially due to Jim’s presentation at the end in which he mixed some serious technical chops with very funny one-liners popping out every second or third sentence.

My talk, “REST Eye for the SOA Guy” (title taken from here), went reasonably well. The only time it didn’t flow as smoothly as I would have liked was when some semi-anti-REST folk started questioning my assertions about specialized interfaces inhibiting scalability, and wondering whether REST just pushes all the coupling problems to the data. I felt like I was being pulled backwards in time by 5 years to the old W3C Web Services Architecture Working Group meetings, where very little was ever accomplished due to arguments like those. I’ll have more to say on those topics in some near-future blog postings.

An interesting thought struck me as the track progressed: in my experience it seems that most SOA/WS proponents who argue against REST on technical merits have never actually tried to build any RESTful applications. Many of their objections seem to be heavily based on emotional reactions, or based on conclusions reached only by blowing issues out of proportion (for example, I felt that many of the points in Sanjiva’s talk fell into this category). So it led me to wonder about how many, if any, dyed-in-the-wool WS advocates ever seriously, honestly, and fairly looked at REST, actually tried it, but then decided it didn’t work and so willingly chose to go back to WS. I don’t want to count those who had to go back to WS only to integrate with something else already implemented using WS, because that doesn’t fit the “willingly” part. (For example, I recently had to write a client to access a SOAP service, and I was definitely not in the “willingly” camp because the service was way more complicated than it needed to be, only because of SOAP.) I personally know of nobody who has ditched REST for WS like this, but if you have, or if you know of someone who has, I’d love to hear the whole tale, so feel free to leave it in a comment.

The conference itself was much like JAOO, which is not surprising given its JAOO roots. It was smaller, of course, given that this was the first QCon held in the U.S. And just like JAOO, there were times where I wanted to be in multiple places at the same time to see two or three different talks all scheduled concurrently. For example, I very much would have liked to sit all day in the Thursday “Architecture Quality” track, but couldn’t since it ran parallel to the track I was in.

In short, if you didn’t go to QCon, you missed a great conference. Stefan, thanks again for inviting me.